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Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

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C is for Chi

Posted in All, Health, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“You guys can do all this awesome Bending stuff … I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” ~ Sokka, Avatar: The Last Airbender

When I was young, around nine-years old, my dad decided to enroll me and my younger siblings in martial arts.  My father was a black belt.  The sensei of the school he enrolled us in studied under the same master as him.  From time to time, my dad would show us techniques well in advance of what most of the other students were learning.  I don’t really consider my father to be the best of teachers.  I feel he lacks the patience to go through things in a step-by-step, kinesthetic, ground-up manner.  When I first learned to drive, he started me on my mom’s SUV, which to this day I still get nervous driving.  However, regardless of how I may feel about him, there’s one thing I owe him my gratitude for and that’s introducing me to the concept of chi.

I don’t remember exactly how I old I was at the time, maybe somewhere around fourteen years of age.  But I remember my father sitting me down in the living room.  He didn’t really go into too much detail; he just explained that there was a sort of energy inside us and that we could learn to use it with practice.  He told me to hold out my hand, which I did.  Then he held his own up around mine without touching it and asked what I felt.  I remember feeling a sort of warm energy when he did this.  That’s chi, he said.

So ended the lesson.  It wasn’t much of anything, really.  All I had to go by was that experience, that feeling, and a vague idea that it had something to do with breathing.  But fortunately, that was enough to get me started.

It’s truly a revelatory experience your first time.  I remember my eyes went wide when I first felt it.  Over the years, I had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and my progress was very slow.  Having someone there to guide you through your exploration of internal energy is a very beneficial thing.  Joining a Tai Chi or Chi Kung or Yoga class, or even just working with a partner who knows something about it, is a lot better than trying to figure it all out all on your own.

“To train the mind, one must first train the body.” ~ Izumi Curtis, Full Metal Alchemist

In my house, we have a lot of old Shaw Brothers kung fu films.  The first one I ever saw was The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.  It’s the story of a young man named San Te who enters Shaolin Temple and learns kung fu.  At first, San Te’s eager to the point of foolishness and wants to start with the highest art, so he’s taken to the 35th Chamber where a bunch of old and senior monks are reciting Buddhist sutras.  The master of the chamber tells the San Te to leave because San Te clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.  When he refuses, the master raises his arms and the man falls back on his ass.

The monk never touched him, but was sitting at least ten feet away.  You can imagine the look on San Te’s face and how afraid and confused he was.  That was his first experience with chi.

While that may have been a movie, the idea of chi has basis in reality.  The other day, I was watching Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which is a documentary series about real life superhuman abilities.  Among the ones I saw in the episode was a Shaolin monk named Shi Yan Ming who used chi in martial arts.  The premise of the show is to try and determine the scientific basis of such superhuman feats.  A collision scientist was brought in with equipment that revealed results unlike anything the woman had ever seen before.  Shi Yan Ming’s punches delivered damage greater than that of a 30 MPH car crash.  That was just one of several feats performed that would appear impossible given his size and muscular build, so clearly chi has an affect here.

Many martial artists have spent years developing their chi power through training of the body and getting a feel for their own energy.  Unfortunately, few of them spend as much time studying the nature of reality, science, healing, philosophy, and metaphysics, so their ability to use chi is limited mostly to its connection with their physical bodies.

“Teacher, what is this?  This isn’t kung fu!”

“That’s the highest form you’ll ever see, the final form.  You don’t understand.” ~ 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

So what exactly is chi?

In its most basic sense, chi is a type of energy that exists within your body.  It originates from your soul and is the essential life force that powers your mind and body like electricity flowing through your computer.

Your body has many different systems of organs, such as the nervous system, the circulatory system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, etc.  There is also an energy system.  You may have seen diagrams of energy meridians which map out the locations of this system for use in acupuncture, reiki, and other healing arts.  If the meridians are the blood vessels, the chi is the blood that flows through them.

Through mental training and practice, you can learn how to use and manipulate your own chi for a variety of purposes.  If you’ve never worked with it before, it’s essential that you experience it for yourself.  I can’t think of a better way to start you off than to say find someone who knows about it and get them to show you, just like how my dad first showed me.  It will jump start your awareness.

The nearest I can describe it in words is that it’s like an electromagnetic effect.  If you were to hold two magnets of the same polarity in your hands and try to bring them together, you’ll feel a well of magnetism between your hands as if there were an invisible ball there.  That’s basically the same effect that you are creating here.

It’s likely that chi is electromagnetic energy, but I us the word “chi” out of tradition and because it just sounds cooler.  Recall that everything in the universe is made of energy, most of which, if not all of which, is electromagnetic in nature.

The human body is indeed capable of generating electrical charge, which creates magnetism.  The effect of putting your hands out acts like two opposing capacitor plates.  Through focus, you can turn the current on or off and control the flow of electromagnetism between your hands.  I’ve heard of people that can actually shoot sparks across their fingertips like a van de graaff generator.  That’s probably what allows the Sith and Firebenders to manipulate lightning, at least in theory.

Over the years, I’ve been able to do a lot of things with my chi.  I can generate it, manipulate it into different shapes, alter its “mass,” and use it for healing purposes.  I haven’t been able to use it for telekinesis yet, bu

Realistically, I’ve found that, for the amount of time and focus you’d need to gather the energy necessary to flip off a light switch from across the room, it’d be a hell of a lot easier to just summon the discipline and energy to get up and turn it off manually.  So that scene with Anakin Skywalker feeding Padme with the Force … not likely to happen.

D is for Darkness

Posted in All, Media, Psychology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by marushiadark

“I like rabbits and all.  They’re cute and they’re horny.  And if you’re cute and you’re horny, then you’re probably happy, in that you don’t know who you are and why you’re even alive.” ~ Donnie Darko

I was watching the movie Donnie Darko earlier today.  It’s an incredibly fucked-up psychological fantasy and I think that may be what makes it one of my favorite movies of all time … that and the fact that I was once not all that dissimilar from Donnie, myself.  The director, Richard Kelly, says he welcomes any and all viewer interpretations as valid and mine is that the movie is a commentary on the way in which a few of us try desperately to escape our conditioned realities.

Donnie Darko is an extremely intelligent and eloquent young high school student who just doesn’t fit in with the world around him.  His principal remarks at one point that his test scores are intimidating, and Donnie constantly challenges those around him to stop buying into the pre-programmed beliefs they’ve been spoon-fed.  But when he tries to break free, the universe pushes back and provides him with nothing but resistance and sorrow and pain.

I think all of us must face this sort of ordeal in life where we question our own existence and come face to face with death and pain and God and the thought of being alone in a cold, dead, and empty nihilistic universe.  For those of us that are more aware, we usually face these issues sooner, rather than later, often around the age that Donnie Darko was in the movie.  For those that are strong enough, we learn to move on and find answers and meaning behind it all.  Like with any test, those that can’t hack it are doomed to repeat their lessons until they ultimately learn them.

So what is it we can learn from Donnie Darko?

“And did you stop and think that maybe infants need darkness?  That maybe darkness is part of their natural environment?” ~ Prof. Kenneth Monnitoff

Perhaps the first thing that Donnie Darko teaches us is that it’s ok to be different (but not easy) and that it’s perfectly normal (but not common) to be going through all of this crap and that life is too boring if you just sit around looking pleasant all the time like Kitty Farmer or Jim Cuttingham.

Darkness teaches us to appreciate the presence of light.  Chaos teaches us to appreciate order.  You can’t have one without the other, since darkness is the absence of light and chaos is the absence of order.  For life to be in dynamic equilibrium, there has to be some of both.  Too much light or too much darkness and you will not be able to see clearly.  Too much light or too much darkness and you’ll eventually go blind.

I remember walking around my school one time when I realized that peace is actually quite boring sometimes and that we never really notice things like peace and love and health until we stop having them; but once we’re sick or in the middle of a war zone or alone, we only want for it to end and for us to return to that healthy and peaceful and loving time.

“There are other things that need to be taken into account here.  Like the whole spectrum of human emotions.  You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else!” ~ Donnie Darko

Donnie is obviously very aware of reality and that life is a lot more complex than the so-called authorities would have him believe.  Those in positions of power over him live in a fantasy world and use threats and drugs and mind-control techniques when he refuses to conform to their reality.

At one point, Kitty Farmer threatens him, saying that if he won’t put a clearly subjective issue into a black or white category, then he will receive a zero for the day.  Of course, Donnie knows better.  He knows that a failing grade is a meaningless symbol that has no real-world application to anything.  So he tells Kitty that she can shove the whole program up her ass.  This lands him into detention and a parent-teacher meeting is called.  It’s clear from the way in which the principal deals with the situation that he’s little more qualified than Kitty Farmer is – a fact that is further displayed when he fires the only open-minded teacher at the school.

“You’re right, actually …  I’m pretty toubled and I’m pretty confused … but I think you’re the fucking Antichrist.” ~ Donnie Darko

The human mind goes through many different levels of consciousness, ranging from that of a primitive animal all the way up to … well, there’s theoretically no limit to that.

Religion and superstition are just one level along the way.  Religion can be a good thing when it prevents people from causing harm to themselves and to one another and when it gets them to follow a degree of order in their lives.  But those rules are meant more to keep people in line than to reveal to them the truth, and this is when religion can become a problem, as there are many who will kill others because they don’t understand the true purpose of what is written in their religious codices.

“I have reached the end of your book and … there are so many things that I need to ask you.  Sometimes I’m afraid of what you might tell me.  Sometimes I’m afraid that you’ll tell me this is not a work of fiction.” ~ Donnie Darko

Science portends to be all about truth, but it often ignores the equally important vessel of understanding: philosophy.

Donnie Darko’s science teacher, Kenneth Monnitoff, opens up to him initially in explaining to him about time travel and wormholes.  For a while, Donnie is very interested and grateful to his teacher for that guidance.  He takes that knowledge and uses it to advance his understanding of what’s going on; but he becomes frustrated upon returning to his professor again after he’s taken The Philosophy of Time Travel (which Monnitoff gave him) and used it to discover some very esoteric things.  Monnitoff tells him that he can’t continue helping Donnie or he would risk losing his job.  So now Donnie is once again all alone.

I can recall having similar conversations with my own science teachers.  When I started talking about multiple dimensions or the application of negative mass in regards to flying saucers, I got strange and worried looks as though they believed I ought to be in a mental institute.  But was that necessarily the case or did they just not have the imagination or evidence I had?

“I don’t think that you have a clue what it’s like to communicate with these kids.  We are losing them to apathy … to this prescribed nonsense.  They are slipping away.” ~ Karen Pommeroy

Clearly, none of Donnie’s teachers, except for Karen Pommeroy, is even remotely capable of understanding the pain and the trauma that Donnie has gone through.  They aren’t equipped with the awareness and experience necessary to understand that a schizophrenic mind will not conform to social norms.  Whatever Donnie is going through, whether it’s real or imagined, he most certainly believes it to be real and is willing to act upon those beliefs.

For those of you who have never experienced it before, such things as manic-depression, multiple personality disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia arise when the mind is given something that it cannot resolve easily.  It may be a paradox that can’t be logically resolved or a painful experience that the person would rather deny or something that is simply so foreign to everything that the person has come to believe up to that point about reality.  Either way, it’s something so powerful that the mind is incapable of handling it without shutting down, so it partitions itself the way one would partition a hard drive.  This partition is kept separate along with all the related data on the matter until a safe and acceptable resolution can be had.  Medication may curtail the resultant behavior and make the person function within society, but ultimately the only real solution is for the individual to find a way to reunite the two parts of their mind again.

“I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breath a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.” ~ Donnie Darko

Donnie’s principle fear is dying alone.  He tells Dr. Thurman that it’s foolish to believe in God if everyone dies alone.  His therapist explains that he is actually an agnostic, not an atheist, since he acknowledges the possibility of God, even if he’s not sure if there’s proof.

We often talk of God’s plan and divine intervention.  In fact, most of the events in Donnie’s life all happen for a reason.  “Deus Ex Machina,” he cries.  For a more thorough explanation of how any why, see this document.  It’s possible that the events of 2012 may be a similar deal with a Tangent Universe being created that could threaten to destroy the world.  It’s also very reminiscent of some of the themes in Inception and Deja Vu.

At the time of my writing this article, I haven’t seen the sequel to it: S. Darko, but I really would love to.  Maybe I’ll even do a post on that one as well.

In the meantime, I hope that anyone who suffers from a life like the one that Donnie Darko had will be able to make it through alright and come to see it, as I have, as nothing more than a rite of passage into an elect group of aware and free  human beings.

As Gretchin says, being weird is meant as a compliment.